Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Good Parts of Alone Time

Joanne Rock

I’ve spent a lot of time alone lately. That probably comes as no surprise. We’ve all been isolated in one way or another for the last few months. I’m not always totally alone, so that’s nice. But I’ve had more solo time than I’ve had in many years.

As an aggressively positive thinker, I try to look at whatever I face through
Rose colored glasses aren't always a bad thing
the rosiest possible lenses. I’m sure some people find that annoying, but it’s my coping mechanism. I surround myself with pretty things in my physical realm, and curate my social media to be purposely uplifting. So it’s in keeping with my approach to life that I’ve looked for silver linings in being alone so often. I thought it might help someone else to share the good that I’ve found.

My new stereo in my office
First and foremost, I like quiet. I always have. There is a deep quietness in being alone that allows my spirit to settle and my thoughts to pleasantly wander. That’s not the case when there is hubbub around me, others making demands on my time, or the general strife of life elbowing me for my attention. My writing lately has been clear and focused, and I know it’s because of the quietness of the times. That’s a good thing. I’m reading more, which is something I enjoy in quiet times. Those are good wins.

Yet, when I want to turn up the music, being alone gives me the ability to make my musical choices all about me. I listen to what I want, when I want, as loud as I want. And that’s pretty darn nice. I bought myself a new stereo system with a level of sound quality I haven’t experienced since before I had a family. Music—in beautiful, full notes—now surrounds me as often as I choose. I’ve been recovering some lost music of my teens and twenties thanks to the wonders of Spotify and their “Song Radio” feature that lets me find songs in similar vein, or released at the same time, as a song in my memory.

I eat less. Now, lest you think I’m depriving myself, I will tell you that I mostly snack and it’s not always healthy. But when I’m alone, there is no “social eating” for the sake of sharing a meal with someone. Buying groceries just for me ensures I don’t buy a treat for someone else that I’ll end up eating too. I don’t snack at night to unwind with anyone. I decide when I’m done for the day, which is usually when I’m done writing. All in all, my eating habits are better when I’m not taking anyone else into account.

My March Harlequin Desire
I dance more. Some of this has to do with having more music around me, of course. I’m more inspired now that the new stereo is at work! But I’m also a little freer with my movements knowing there’s no one else around. If the music calls for a poorly executed pirouette while I’m cooking, I go for it. If I want a Friday night dance party hour, that’s fun too.

All these things have been good for my psyche during a trying time. Embracing my personal joys has helped me feel more content while I miss my friends and hugs from family members. I miss travel and road trips, meals out and people watching. But extraordinary times call for different measures, so I’m diving deep into what I can do to feel more content.

I’ve got a copy of my March book HEARTBREAKER to share with one random commenter. How are you handling the increased isolation? Is the alone time getting to you, or have you been finding some new joys to help you through? Share with me and I’ll announce a random winner from all the comments next week.  

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Messy Desk is a State of Mind? Maybe...Then Again....

Albert Einstein once said, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?" I like that quote. Probably because my desk if forever in a state of chaos, at least according to RadioMan. To me, my desk is home. it's filled with things that make me happy, in addition to the things that I need to work on.

However, sometimes, I realize I need to clean it up a bit. This week was one of those clean up moments. Probably because I have a book due. ahem. My editor can ignore that sentence, it wasn't because of a deadline it was. . .some.other.reason.

Anywho. Here are a few things that I found on my desk that are making me happy lately.

The first is a stack of books. Why are they making me happy? Well, because they were all really interesting books - all were part of my reading list for a recent contest...and a couple are now one-click authors.

It's the Year in a Jar
Then, there is our Year in a Jar. My family whined interminably about this project immediately jumped on board with this project a couple of years ago and now it's just something we *do*. When something fun (like a vacation) or cool (like a new book contract) or exciting (like bebe's swim championships) happens, we write down the event on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. On New Year's Eve, we'll open the jar and read all about our year. I've seen some Year in a Jar projects that are filled with calligraphy and mementos. We use ticket stubs and scratch paper and usually abbreviations and really messy handwriting...but it works for us!

These bookends are new(ish). I bought them late last year because, owls. Yes, that's also a spool of thread and a
needle, I had to perform surgery on a beanie baby a couple of weeks ago. At some point, the thread will go back where it belongs, it's just that I have a feeling more surgery is going to be needed. Soon(ish). I keep print copies of my books here, because it's a nice reminder of where I've been...and of where I want to go next.

And I haven't found a single thing that needs to be tossed.
Although, I should probably put those books on the actual bookshelf instead of the corner of my desk. But, look, it's not all that messy...I mean, there's a whole foot or so of un-cluttered space to my right. Although my lapdesk could probably be put away. And so could my tablet sleeve. And, as I'm typing this, I realize I have about seven post-its and to-do lists to my left that aren't relevant any more. Okay, the old post-its and the to-do lists can go...but the rest of the clutter stays! I mean, Einstein was a smart dude...I don't want an empty mind, so I can't have an empty desk. Right?

So, spill, is your desk messy? Perfect organized? Somewhere in between?

Kristina Knight's latest release, Jase, Nevada Cowboys Book 3, is available now in paperback or e-format:

Hot Las Vegas nights get even steamier for these three powerful, wealthy businessmen with cowboy roots and the strong, independent women who fall for them. What happens in Vegas certainly won’t stay there as these successful tycoons win at love.

Jase Reeves lives his life by rules: never get emotional at the poker table and never get emotional with women. But when he meets self-help author Sabrina York all bets are off. Sabrina enjoys fame and fortune writing her female-empowerment books, but she could do without the reputation – that of the Oldest Living (Supposed) Virgin in Vegas. Blowing up her entire life because sexy gambler Jase Reeves has shown an interest in her? Sabrina has already written the book on that, but staying away from Jase isn’t as simple as closing the cover of her favorite book. And for Jase, melting the heart of the Vegas Virgin might be his greatest gamble yet…

Buy Jase: Amazon  B&N  iBooks  Kobo

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time TKD-kid wrangler, and full-time ThinMints enthusiast. You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Stuff Your eReader! by Jenny Gardiner

Gosh, it's been a few months since my last newsletter, and in that time, it feels like the world has turned upside down. I hope you and your family are safe and well as we all deal with the challenges facing us as a result of the pandemic.
It's truly a stressful time. I consider myself fortunate to have a full-time therapy dog on hand! But there are still moments when even Pippa needs to shelter in her safe space (especially when the vacuum is being used).

Many folks seem to be binging on books to escape stress and anxiety. If your TBR list is bottoming out, I have an easy fix.  Visit Romance Free Reads -- TODAY ONLY -- to download more than 200 free romance books across all genres. 
Be sure to get your free copies of Skirt Chaser and It's Reigning Men Box Set (Books 1-3), which are part of this promotion. My other freebie is Falling for Mr. Wrong.

It's been difficult to focus on writing, so I pushed back the release of my next book to October. It's the first in an all-new series, which means creating a new world and a new cast of characters. Preorder Hard to Get and look for more news about this rom-com series in the future.

Shrimply irresistible…
Lola Quigley can’t believe her good luck when she wins a spot on the Food Channel’s popular Shop till you Drop. The show features amateur foodies competing to produce a prize-winning meal from staples commonly found in food banks, where people often unload their most unwanted pantry items. Having lived on a near poverty-level budget for a few dark years when her life imploded unexpectedly, Lola had grown to love the challenge of creating delicious meals with the cheapest ingredients she could find on the sale shelf of the grocery store, or—in a twist of irony—donated from her local food bank. She just has to win this: the prize money would help her launch the soup kitchen food truck she’s dreamed of starting. It’ll be her way of paying it forward after she managed to dig out of a financial hole she’d doubted she ever could escape.
Levi Patton is pissed. He’s stuck doing penance as a guest chef on an annoying cable reality TV show where overly enthusiastic wannabes try to outdo him with random undesirable ingredients. Will he ever get over the meteoric crash of his career after a food critic found the unmistakable tail of a rat floating atop his bouillabaisse at Levi’s revered Washington, DC, restaurant? Convinced, but unable to prove, that a jealous sous chef sabotaged him, his name is now mud in the food world; he’s drowning in the veritable toilet of the culinary industry: competing on Shop till you Drop. And he’s totally screwed when he ends up pitted against the overly cheerful brunette with the tattoo of Popeye on her bicep, the very woman he’d left at the altar nearly a decade ago.

Posting links below:

Book one of the It's Reigning Men series, Something in the Heir, is free here:

Google Play

Also Red Hot Romeo is free! A hot Italian, a gorgeous supermodel, and fabulous wines…what’s not to love?!
You can check out the first book in the Royal Romeo series for free here:

And Falling for Mr. Wrong from the Falling for Mr. Wrong series is free here:

Google Play

Lastly, Skirt Chaser is now free!


And if you enjoy these books, there are plenty more in each series to read on and they're very affordable at $3.99!

Nothing like a world emergency to clarify all of the most important things in your life. I'm so very grateful for my wonderful family, my adorable dog, a home with a roof over my head, spring weather so that we can at least be outside and enjoy the blossoming trees and listening to birds singing. I'm grateful for all of those medical professionals willing to put their lives on the line for us, and for the many reporters who also have risked themselves for reporting from Coronavirus hotspots, and experts being available 24/7 on many TV networks to answer questions from a nervous public.

Our country has been through many awful things before, things that required far greater sacrifice, sending millions of our young people overseas to fight in dreadful wars. Staying at home is easy peasy in comparison. We can do this folks! Stay safe and thanks for staying home to protect the vulnerable, those who are immunocompromised, the elderly, and of course our medical care providers on the front line in this new and eye-opening war.

Love you all and stay safe! ❤️




Friday, May 15, 2020

Michelle Styles:Gardening the time of the Ice Saints

Lockdown, stay at home, the time when the world went slow grinds on.
   In places you are starting to see baby steps towards restarting life. There are arguments on both sides and it is only in the next few years that we will even be able to tell which countries made the right decisions and which ones were either too cautious or too gung ho. It is the trouble when you live in interesting times — you can’t flip to the end of the book to see how it turns out.

Yellow magnolia
The one thing I do know is that Spring is coming on a pace in my garden. As the magnolias bloom, the perennials push their way through and the blossom grows fat on the fruit trees, I’m remind that life does go on. Things can be restarted.
Right now we are at a critical juncture for British gardeners - -the so-called Ice Saint days. The three days (11 -13 May) –St Boniface, St Pancras and St Servatius — are occasionally bring cold weather. St Sophia on the 15 May traditionally brings this period to an end. The period 12 -15 May is sometimes called the blackthorn winter time because it happens when the blacktorn is flowering.
Tree peony
Basically, it is when you are likely to get a hard frost and tender plants can be destroyed. It can also wreck havoc with fruit trees and tender vegetables.  But after this time, it is safer to put plants out as summer is coming.  The how long do you wait until you harden off the plants is something which is debated every year in this household.  However, I have developed my mantra  of not until all the ice saints are past. It seems to work.
Apple blossom in front of the hawthorn
All I know is that we are about to go into the full summer glory and the cold of winter, even with the final blast of the ice saints, will pass. And I have to believe the lockdown, COVID 19 and the longer term troubles will pass as well. But then I am a gardener and gardening is an optimistic thing, full of hope and trust. It is also very rewarding. And for anyone who thinks they don’t have green fingers, you don’t want to know the plants I have inadvertently killed. Sometimes, you have to be persistent and to believe.
In other news

Book 2 in the Sons of Sigurd Harper St George’s  Falling For Her Viking Captive  has been published. You can read the start  for free here.
The Viking warrior
In her cellar…
Lady Annis must stop Viking Rurik Sigurdsson from discovering the truth about his family’s death. Her only solution is to imprison him. But as the ruggedly handsome Viking starts to charm his way out of his cell and into her heart, can she be sure he’s not still intent on vengeance—or perhaps an unexpected alliance is the solution?

The preview of Book 3 – my Conveniently Wed to the Viking is now available here.
Strangers on the run
Now they must wed!
Sandulf, youngest of the famed Sigurdsson brothers, is on the trail of the assassin who murdered his family. On his way, he meets Scottish runaway Lady Ceanna, a prickly, wary woman trying to escape a forced marriage. Her beauty and courage make Sandulf realize there may be more at stake than his revenge… As the threat of her family follows them, there’s only one way to keep her safe—marriage!

Jenni Fletcher’s cover for book 4 has been revealed and I am really looking forward to reading it.

In writing news, I am waiting for my editor to get back to me on my latest Viking and I am working on another project in the mean time. One always to believe.
Stay safe. Until next month.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods from Roman to Victorian but most recently Viking. Her next book Conveniently Wed to the Viking will be published in July 2020. You can read more about Michelle and her books at

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Christina Hollis: Evening Magic

Pic by Wal_172619, via Pixabay.
Each year, my daughter and I book up to go on one of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' Nightingale walks. These are held during May in a local bird reserve. This year, of course, they were cancelled because of Covid 19. That means we'll be missing out on our evening magic this year.

Although the ancient coppice and tangled understory of brambles surrounding our house was once alive with the sound of nightingales, thy haven't visited her for many years.  At least we still have sheets of beautiful wild bluebells running through the sweet chestnut trees like blue mist, despite the wild boar regularly digging up the bulbs.

The news about the virus is so depressing, I ration myself to one news broadcast per day. Both my husband and son suffer from asthma, and my son has a fragile immune system. I brought him home from university on 18th March, and until yesterday we've been stuck inside, except for three daily dog-walks. We've been taking it in turns to get our exercise. Apart from that, the only time I'd been out of the house since March was to post a birthday card, last week.
The spicy fragrance from these has been really strong in this week's  warm sunshine

On Monday, the garden centres in Wales opened. As we live only a few miles from the border, OH and I crossed it to visit our favourite garden store. Only one shopper per family was allowed, so he stayed in the car while I stocked up on the bare necessities of gardening life. It's a small, family run business of the sort that will be hit hard by the economic downturn this lockdown has caused. We went there partly to give them some support, but also because I truly believe gardening is the best kind of therapy for low spirits.  It never fails, and now I've got plenty of seeds of wallflowers, sweet williams and stocks to sow for flowers next spring. That's optimism!

I've even been able to find a substitute for our annual nightingale walk. Three hours of uninterrupted birdsong, thanks to the wonders of YouTube

Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written more than twenty novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, walking her dog, or gardening.

You can catch up with her at, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

I Wish I Wrote...

My daughter said that she was loving Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. So, I tried it out (it's on NBC and Hulu) and...I love it. I mean I really love it. I just watched Episode 9. Not just loved it, I wish I wrote it. Sigh.

When I started writing, I wrote romantic comedy. And even at my most zany, I tried to find the heart of the story. People living in my comedies never found their situations funny. Whether they're worrying about going to jail and getting a tattoo (where do you put your prison tattoo that won't wrinkle?) or worrying whether a kiss is a kiss or just mouth-to-mouth, the obstacle was real to them. LOL

 On the surface,  a girl who can hear people singing their heart-truth (her term) sounds silly. But there're so many deeper undercurrents to Zoey's EP. Today's episode dealt with a hearing-impaired character who was struggling to proclaim her independence.

It really hit me.

And I for a moment I wondered why it hit me so hard. I mulled it over and  I realized I wrote that character in A Special Kind of Different's Colm. I've built a career around characters who have a challenge and overcome it. Sometimes a special need, but mainly just life. Originally I helped them meet that challenge through comedy. I've taught a lot of classes on writing comedy and the point I always come back to is comedy and drama are two sides of the same coin. The same situation can be written either way. When I moved on from writing straight up comedy, that relationship between comedy and drama became a balance in my writing. I love when someone tells me a book made them laugh...and cry. (That sounds so mean. LOL)

Writing characters who overcome fascinates me. I think that the gift writing has given me is realizing we all come with challenges. Sometimes those challenges are visible and easy to see, but everyone has something. Fictional and real people. (To be honest, they're all real to me.) And watching them work so hard to overcome their obstacles...that's what keeps me coming back to writing, day after day, year after year.

Check out Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, and check out my Hometown Heart series. Hopefully both will make you laugh...and maybe cry a bit (no meanness intended LOL).


On Sale: Crib Notes, HH #1
Out Now: A Special Kind of Different, HH #2

Preorder: Homecoming, HH #3

The rest of the Hometown Hearts series will be coming soon.
Suddenly a Father will be out in September of 2020 and
Something Borrowed, Something Blue and Something Perfect in 2021!

PS and if you're looking for a short read, check out my dog Tallulah's pandemic romance, Quarantine! Okay, so the dog isn't the main character, but please don't tell her that. She thinks she's the star!

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Writing What You Don't Know by Susan Sands

I turned in my new Christmas book yesterday, due out October 19th. The title is NOEL, ALABAMA:   An Alabama Christmas Story.

It was a journey in discovery in lots of ways. My heroine is a location manager for a film studio. Did you know they are called location managers with no s? I didn't. The job is to scout locations for filming projects. The location manager or location assistant heads to the place ahead of everyone else and secures lodging for the cast and crew, gets permits from the city for blocking off streets in neighborhoods, works to make sure there's a place to park all the trailers for talent, catering, directors, producers, and electrical. I could go on and on.

Let's just say, this book was thick with research. But as writers, we often have to find professionals to help us look like we know what we're talking about beyond our internet research. Fortunately, I had one. One in the movie business I went to college with. He set me straight about all my wrongness. Now I know all about key grips and dolly grips and honey wagons. Just ask me.

I did watch Steel Magnolias being filmed in my college town my senior year and remember some things about the sets and such. It was a big chaotic production and it turned that town upside down for months, it seemed. But it was such fun, and so exciting.

Maybe someday this very specific research will be useful again. Otherwise, I will store it in some unused part of my brain where all the other "I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night" stuff has found its way. Just enough to be convincing. So far, I've written about a clinical therapist, an ER doctor, a photographer, a television chef, a beauty queen, and an art curator. I am none of those things.

I hope you are all staying healthy and safe. We are still lying low for now.

Enjoy this lovely weather as best you can. I hope to be able to share my new cover next month!